Research studies

Entrepreneurship competencies for IT engineering students: The perception of academic stakeholders


Prepared by the researcher

  • Ghassan Abdel Kader (Beirut Arab University)
  • Nisreen Abi Farraj (American University for Culture and Education)
  •  Zahraa Darwish (American University for Culture and Education)

Democratic Arab Center

Journal index of exploratory studies : Seventh Issue – March 2023

A Periodical International Journal published by the “Democratic Arab Center” Germany – Berlin

Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland
ISSN 2701-9233
Journal index of exploratory studies

:To download the pdf version of the research papers, please visit the following link


The main purpose of this research work is to investigate the question what are the most relevant entrepreneurial competences for IT engineering students perceived by stakeholders from academia. This study provide a new insight into this question in a specific context of an emerging country.

For a better contextual understanding of our research question, we applied a qualitative methodology and conducted 8 semi-structured interviews with academic teachers/instructors in Pakistan. We completed a thematic analysis on our textual data.  Our findings indicates the specific need of interpersonal competencies development such as communication, collaboration or teamwork in addition to strategic competencies and fundamental technical competencies. Based on our results, we confirmed that the continuous development of entrepreneurship competencies is indispensable for better preparing IT engineering students to the labor market and enhancing their employability.


      For several decades, a number of scientific approaches have followed one another and, initially from the 1980s, have allowed the emergence of the particular characteristics that make it possible to qualify the “ideal” or “successful” entrepreneur. The second step was rather to present a list of key skills characteristic of this entrepreneur. Behavioral approaches, in the 2000s, propose to qualify the entrepreneur through attributes such as motivation, attitudes and skills, or even “social” skills allowing entrepreneurs who are able to mobilize them to improve their skills. Today, there is no doubt about that entrepreneurship competencies are between the most important transversal competencies and viewed as vital for a future generation of IT engineers. Schumpeter (1934) prints out that entrepreneur are prime movers of economic change and they are stood out like an economic hero whose creativity invigorates the economy with new ideas that lead to economic growth, obviously, the college students as an independent object lead us to research the college students‟ entrepreneurship activities which become more meaningful. Entrepreneurial projects provide greater opportunities for young people to enter the world of business locally and globally, to provide new and innovative services to society and develop their entrepreneurial skills and competencies, which will inevitably contribute to the country’s economic and social development, ensuring a stable and sustainable business climate and enhancing local and global competition for any country.

Therefore, in order to make a contribution to the integrated factors from the multidimensional perspective, this study will focus on answering the following research questions:

What are the entrepreneurial skills that are needed for the IT practitioners and Engineers from an academic perspective?

In our research article, we will have the following sections: the introduction (ending with a research question), the theoretical framework (ending with a or specific objectives or one or more hypotheses), the methodology (i.e. the participants, the instrumentation, the process and the method of analyzing the results), the results, the discussion of the results, the conclusion and, finally, the references.

We will know the perspective of the academic stakeholders, mainly the instructors of IT and engineering faculty, regarding the field of entrepreneurship because this will lead to a more understanding regarding the establishment of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). These SMEs are the potential contributors to support sustainable development and to diversify the sources of the economy based on the national vision and the university and college strategy in this regard..

The Literature Review: Main Skills for Entrepreneurship

The needed entrepreneurial skills have been studied thoroughly by several authors especially in the university framework. In the following we will examine the contribution of several scholars in this field of research. The skills of the entrepreneur also inspire the training and management sectors, in which many studies are carried out with the aim of specifying the skills and key behaviors of the individual entrepreneur. For instance, according to Poder et al (2019), the university was making a follow-up on the activities of the students after their graduation specially who were self-employed where entrepreneurship competencies was studied with a list of 22 skills as a result of the survey, the university education provided them with critical skills for engineering’s upon diverse opportunities.

From his standpoint, Yajie Lv (2019, p.3) divided the skills of the entrepreneur into 6 categories when he mentioned that “entrepreneurs often need to have some relevant legal knowledge, financial knowledge, psychological knowledge, communication, express ion and other public relations skills”. Then, Yajie added additional skills when he stated that part of the measures to achieve in a perfect way the management of entrepreneurial engineering is done by “strengthen organizational leadership, perfect management mechanism”. Regarding the role of the academic institutions, Yajie (2019, p.4) explained how universities have followed up the entrepreneurial assignments of the students, through a certain platform based on communication and cooperation.

According to Kant Kanyarusoke (2020), the main competencies of the entrepreneurs are to have “a combination of leadership and Human Resource/Relations management skills in the entrepreneurs themselves”. In this framework, Kanyarusoke mentioned that the African university and college engineering programs did slight efforts “to develop and impart these skills” requiring financial and operative organizational skills, while assuming the previous skills are essential ones.

Additional people focused on the importance of the communication skills specially the leadership dimensions with Mamabolo, Kerrin, and Kele (2017) who named this category of skills as “social and interpersonal, personality and leadership skills form a cluster of personality and leadership skills” as a main clusters for startups. Loue & Baronet have conducted in 2012 a study in order to assess the entrepreneurial skills while relying on the questionnaire in addition to interviews members of the chambers of commerce while they have studied 55 skills. This research made it possible to present a repository of skills divided into 7 main axes: detection of business opportunities, financial management, human resources management, sales and marketing management, leadership and management, financial management, self-management / personal capacities, strategic marketing management and intuition / vision. For Kövesi (2017), the universities must exert efforts in order to transmit the “savoir faire” (called functional skills) “to acquire entrepreneurship skills within the framework of specialized engineering entrepreneurship programs”.

Boyles (2012) synthesizes different approaches relating to the skills of entrepreneurs and presents a matrix composed of three main axes: cognitive skills (information search, sorting and selection of information, innovating by providing some something new and original compared to the existing one, compare, evaluate and synthesize in developing solutions to complex problems); social skills (collaborative exchanges in order to solve problems and bring innovations, manage emotions and those of others, communicate and federate); action-oriented skills (use the time and resources efficiently, develop action plans, self-assessment, flexibility, initiative, choice of leadership and accountability). These skills, according to the author, are likely to feed into certain entrepreneurship training programs and to be evaluated in order to provide an efficient reading grid oriented towards the correct

understanding of the 21st century business environment  century.

Another interesting approach is to consider the entrepreneur as an individual with a capital of social skills called “social skills” and that these attributes constitute a solid foundation allowing individuals who are endowed with them to experience “greater entrepreneurial success” (Markman, 2007). These social skills somehow influence the efforts of entrepreneurs in starting their business; they are presented in three main axes:

social perception, managerial impression, social persuasion and influence, social adaptability.

Abdulwahed (2016) said the main key for integrating entrepreneurship skills were practical projects; according to the experience at the College of engineering at Qatar University, he has exposed that the “deployment of multidisciplinary complex design projects has led to transformative impact on engineering students conceptual understanding and integration of learning theories as well as leadership and soft skills development”.

Other work attempts to link entrepreneurial skills and entrepreneurship training. The study of the feeling of entrepreneurial self-efficacy, for example, on basis of the work of Bandura (1997) and the theory of planned behavior of Ajzen (1991) can provide a better understanding and understanding of the mechanisms that push an individual to go into business or not.

In the case of engineering students at Princess Sumaya University for Technology, Abualbasal & Badran (2019) indicated that the outcomes of the interviews were backing the background of the study about “the weak linkage between the entrepreneurs and the market in the early stage of the business can overcome if sufficient entrepreneurial education was provided to university students especially if they have courses were they should develop products to the real market”. In his study about the Saudi engineering students (2017), Hemaid Alsulami investigated students’ entrepreneurial intentions through surveys and interviews based on four categories of competencies: Strategy, Commitment, Conceptual and Opportunity Competencies to assess their ability to become entrepreneurs.

The Methodology

The objective of this part is to present the general approach, the method of research and data collection and analysis tools to answer the research question. Exposing and justifying the methodological options chosen for the empirical study seems to be a major exercise. From an epistemological perception, the research focuses on a supposedly complex and dynamic phenomenon: the opinions of academic instructors regarding the entrepreneurial skills needed by the engineering and IT students.

As a tool, we have referred to the in depth interview is a privileged tool in qualitative research. Its frequent use, coupled with numerous and nuanced methodological details, seems a promising criterion for adopting this device. Normally, the interview is one of the processes of communication between at least two people who discuss a common topic in order to arrive at a synthesis. Thus, interviews are constructed to assemble data and analyze the topic discussed based on that data. The interview is therefore a tool making it possible to understand the culture of the environment and to perceive the implicit as well as to decode the cultural roots (Haddar, 2010) without which we cannot understand the case of the governance of the public budget in the Lebanon. One of the most important advantages of interviewing members of the political elite over other  topics is that it is often easier to get information about them before the interview takes place but access to elite subjects is often a feat in itself. (Peabody, 1990)

Like other types of interviews, before proceeding, we have explained to the interviewees the content of the questions and their thematic orders in order to make these people aware of the subjects to be discussed. It is generally accepted that these ‘decision-makers’ subjects do not prefer to be questioned through closed questions (Aberbach, 2002), which we try to avoid during interviews. Work on the uses of individual research interviews in the human sciences has revealed a wide variety of research practices and ways of reporting these practices in empirical articles (Royer, Baribeau and Duchesne, 2009). The analysis indicates that the researchers call upon more than thirty interviewing techniques which they use in order to know and understand phenomena and, even, to demonstrate the existence of some of their aspects. Many studies about entrepreneurial skills were conducted using interviews; Fernandes, Afonso, Fonte, Alves & Ribeiro (2017) have used as well in their case study the semi-structured interviews to students and former students, informal contacts with teachers” to study the promotion of entrepreneurship among informatics engineering students where “one researcher conducted the interviews and, in some cases, a second researcher took notes”.  Also, Mamabolo, Kerrin & Kele in 2017 conducted in their phase one of their research several qualitative interviews “to identify skills and use the results of the qualitative phase to develop a survey instrument for measuring skills against a larger population of entrepreneurs” where the analysis has taken place by advancing “a code book of skills, which included categories of skills, their sub-skills and operational terms”.

This research is part of an interpretive conception (Lincoln & Guba 2003) in accordance with the comprehensive posture and the ambitions of our research question which, as we have seen, focus on the reasons that underpin the needed skills for entrepreneurs. Identifying the methodological discourse on the research interview is not a simple exercise, in particular because of the numerous methodological writings published on this subject. We are looking more to ensure a conversational flow, therefore a dialogue. We conducted a total of 8 interviews. The objective of these interviews was to gain a better understanding of those who have been and are currently involved in curriculum management and the motives as well as process.

The Interview

The used interview was composed of 11 questions (check appendix 1) while responses were collected between 15th and 22nd of April 2021 at IQRA university Karachi, Pakistan. As a result, all the skills set out in our questionnaire were initially collected through qualitative interviews with a sample of entrepreneurs and were then subject to

validation.  The respondents have been chosen to be: the key people in the faculty, PhD holders, having a recognized teaching experience and currently teaching IT /engineering students. The questions were distributed into three parts; the first part is composed of three introductory questions aiming to understand the academic background of each respondent in terms of academic degrees, position, taught courses and the competencies that he disseminate for the students. The next group encompasses seven main questions that encloses the main objectives of the article and discussing the following points from question 4 to question 10: the most wanted skills and competencies in general and then specifically for entrepreneurial topic with guidance, the entrepreneurial skills taught to students, whether these courses are optional or mandatory, the methods of evaluation in addition to the update of the curriculum. The final group is composed of one questions enquiring about the possible collaboration between IQRA university faculty and external stake holders such as university, public authorities and business industry.


For the first question, all of the respondents are PhD holders most of them are from universities outside Pakistan while only one is from Pakistan.


  • According to the answers of the instructors, there is a tendency among them by around 63% that the technical courses are not only the main courses. Therefore, they suggested to teach technical and non-technical courses as main course for the students of the Computer Science and Engineering in IQRA University.

Chart 2:

  • For questions number 5 that is addressing the competencies needed for the employability of the students, the answers varied; number one were about

miscellaneous general entrepreneurial skills related to emotions, respect, integrity, …but the most wanted skills was the Communication one (second in ranks).

Chart 3:

  • In response to the question 5 about the most needed entrepreneurial skills that must be chosen among suggested ones, 55% of the answers indicated the needs for “Communication and human relationships such as leadership and team building” while « Innovation initiatives such as new ideas and inventions » and “Technical competencies » received 18% and 9% for managerial skills.
  • For question 6 that addresses the entrepreneurial competences taught for IT engineering students, almost all answers focused on one dedicated course (named: techno-preneurship ) and final graduate projects.
  • In question 7, most of the answers focused on the relation between accreditation of the HEC and the curriculum while the Head of Department mention that at the end of every semester a revision takes place regarding all the course.
  • Questions number 8 that is addressing whether the “entrepreneurial courses are mandatory or optional” answers focused on that most of the entrepreneurial courses are optional except single course that is obligatory (3 credits course / 48 hours for the whole program). However, some answers mention that the faculty encourage students to enroll in other courses such as introduction to management and principles for accounting and some economics courses.
  • The answers for question 9 varied; some did not respond while others said that they used multiple methods such regular teaching approaches, learning objectives and evaluation means. One instructor provided detailed approach as follow based on the level of the course:
  • Teaching methods
  • Direct Instruction (Low Tech)
  • Flipped Classrooms (High Tech)
  • Kinesthetic Learning (Low Tech)
  • Differentiated Instruction (Low Tech)
  • Inquiry-based Learning (High Tech)
  • Expeditionary Learning (High Tech)
  • Personalized Learning (High Tech)
  • Game-based Learning (High Tech)
  • Learning objectives
    • Identify the noun, or thing you want students to learn.
    • Categorize the level of knowledge you want.
    • Select a verb that is observable to describe the behavior at the appropriate level of learning.
    • Add additional criteria to indicate how or when the outcome will be observable to add context for the student.
  • Evaluation methods
    • Specify General Objectives
    • Defining Specific Objectives
    • Selecting Teaching Points & Parameters
    • Planning Suitable Learning Activities
    • Evaluating
    • Publish Results as Feedback
    • While another instructor delivered another schemes:
  • Teaching methods
  • Direct Instruction, Instructional based learning, Flipped Classrooms, and Personalized Learning
  • Learning objectives
  • To apply knowledge/skills acquired from previous classes.
  • To gain experience in system development.
  • To learn new technologies and techniques.
  • To start their start-ups and bring their unique product or service to market.
  • Evaluation methods

Planning ability, start-up, and financial literacy are complementary entrepreneurial skills that are important first during the preparation and evaluation phase of an entrepreneurial venture. These skills and knowledge are evaluated by their proposed objective, scope, business plan, and comprehensive planning.

  • The answers for question 10 were not clear and sometimes ambiguous however most of them mentioned that there is no innovative methods used to teach entrepreneurial courses except one answer who stated “brainstorm wild and unimaginative ideas” as innovative way and some answers cited the industry based approach especially through exhibitions.
  • Finally, regarding the question 11 about the collaboration with any outside university, business and public authorities, the majority of the answers indicated that there are some partnerships through MOUs with different universities outside Pakistan to exchange students in Malaysia, China and UK. The faculty usually works in collaboration with the local industry to provide internship and work vacancies for the students.

Discussion of the Results

Based on the acquired results, we can conclude the following:

First of all, the importance of the communication skills specially the leadership dimensions with Mamabolo, et al in 2017 was extensively indicated in the answers of questions 4 & 5 when there was a kind of consensus about this category of skills named as “social and interpersonal, personality and leadership skills form a cluster of personality and leadership skills”. Yajie Lv (2019) and Kanyarusoke (2020) support also the importance of communication as a major category of skills and among the main competencies under the name of “a combination of leadership and Human Resource/Relations management skills in the entrepreneurs themselves”.

Secondly, question number 6 affirmed the result found by Abdulwahed (2016) who mentioned the significance of “multidisciplinary complex design projects has led to transformative impact on engineering students conceptual understanding and integration of learning theories as well as leadership and soft skills development”. This question that addressed the ways that entrepreneurial competences are taught for IT engineering students received the answers as by one regular course and a final project by all instructors.


The results of our research conducted on 8 Pakistani academic instructors allow us to draw several conclusions and glimpse a number of perspectives. First of all, our conception of competence applied to the entrepreneur does not differ definitions of the competency presented above and its dynamic conception among the instructors who come from an IT and engineering background.

Secondly, we consider competence in terms of combination of several academic methods and resources to integrate the postulate that competence is contextualized and contingent. Thirdly, we nevertheless believe in the emergence and usefulness of a tool that brings together the skills considered to be the most essential for the entrepreneur and which makes it possible to optimize training or support actions within the academic context. Finally, the fact that this academic tool is more specifically focused on know-how and interpersonal skills in no way means that no other type of skill and that no other skill is necessary to the exercise of the profession of entrepreneur.


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Topics / Questions

Q1: Please, give us a general description of your previous background, professional track and your role in the university.

Q2: Please, tell us what do you teach?

Q3: What are the technical competencies that you provide to your IT/engineering students?


Q4: What are the entrepreneurial competences needed for IT/engineering students’ employability for the labor market?

Q5: What do you think are that the most wanted skills and competencies for your IT/engineering students?

–          Communication and human relationships such as leadership and team building

–          Financial and economical skills such reducing costs and calculating the revenues

–          Strategic issues such as planning and management ideas

–          Innovation initiatives such as new ideas and inventions

–          Technical competencies

Q 6: What are the entrepreneurial competences taught for IT engineering students at your faculty?

Q7: How often did your university update entrepreneurial courses for IT/engineering students in the curriculum? What were changed at the last time? For what reason?

Q8. Entrepreneurial courses are mandatory or optional? Are they integrated in other technical modules or in separated modules? At what study level (Undergraduate, Bachelor or Master)? How many hours?

Q9: How these entrepreneurship courses are taught?

–          Teaching methods

–          Learning objectives

–          Evaluation methods


Q10: Could you give me some examples of innovative teaching experiences for entrepreneurship education developed at your faculty?


Q11: Can you tell about your faculty’s collaboration with external stakeholders (like other universities, entrepreneurs or businesses organisations or public authorities) for entrepreneurial competences development of your IT/engineering students?


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